STEELE TRIES TO PUT HUMILIATIONS BEHIND HIM…. About a year ago, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele had already said and done a variety of things to embarrass himself. During a CNN interview, he insisted he deliberately makes bizarre mistakes as part of an elaborate strategy that only he understands.

“[I]f I do something, there’s a reason for it,” Steele said. “Even, it may look like a mistake, a gaffe. There is a rationale, there’s a logic behind it…. It helps me understand my position on the chess board…. It’s all strategic.”

As the controversies have mounted, the notion that Steele screws up on purpose has proven harder to believe. Yesterday, the scandal-plagued RNC chair tried to new tack: contrition, or at least his version of it.

The chairman of the Republican National Committee stood before party members on Saturday and acknowledged that he had made mistakes and created distractions during a critical midterm election year, but he implored Republicans to turn their attention to defeating Democrats.

The chairman, Michael Steele, arrived here at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference amid a cloud of criticism over his stewardship of the party and its fund-raising practices. He sought to reassure Republicans that he had learned from his missteps and warned that Democrats would try to divide the party and capitalize on the turmoil.

“They love nothing more than for us to keep pointing fingers at me and others, instead of their radical un-American agenda, and we shouldn’t fall for that trap,” Mr. Steele said. “I’m the first here to admit that I’ve made mistakes, and it’s been incumbent on me to take responsibility, shoulder that burden, make the necessary changes and move on.”

For anyone who’s been paying attention, the message wasn’t exactly coherent. It’s not Dems who’ve been “pointing fingers” at Steele, it’s members of his own party, some of whom have resigned from the RNC, some of whom have decided they’ll no longer contribute to a national committee led by someone as incompetent as Steele.

Regardless, the implicit, underlying message remains the same: if Republicans would stop noticing all of my screw-ups, Steele seemed to argue, that’d be preferable for everyone.

Whether Republicans actually buy this is another matter. Steele was the final speaker at the SRLC event, and attendees didn’t stick around to hear the chairman’s pitch. The room, by all accounts, was half-empty when Steele spoke.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.